“The number of people in Britain with surnames like Cockshott, Balls, Death and Shufflebottom — likely the source of schoolroom laughter — has declined by up to 75 percent in the last century.
“If you find the (absolute) number goes down, it’s either because they changed their names or they emigrated,” Webber, author of the study, told Reuters on Wednesday.
He said that in many cases, people probably changed their surnames as they came to be regarded as in bad taste. “It’s because the meaning of words can change. Take the name Daft — that as a term for a stupid is a relatively recent innovation.”
Even when it comes to people’s names, they make economic decisions. The costs of some names are high, like the above, and some people are willing to change it. I would imagine the reason why you do not see an all-at- once movement is because changing your name is costly. First, you have the common bills and accounts problem but this is relatively low as people who get married do this all the time. Second, you have the mocking factor that parents may have experienced and do not want their kids to go through. There is also a possible job factor. As it might be beneficial to catch a future employers eye, they may not want someone with these names representing their company. I could be wrong.
Even though I am not sure when Death was a good surname.
The rest is here.